OUR IDOLS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS
THEY ONLY PRETEND TO BE AT FIRST
BUT THEY SWALLOW UP OUR JOY, OUR PEACE
OUR INTIMACY WITH GOD
OUR VERY LIVES
Last week I reviewed my story of my near sin of manipulation and my deep idol of control — and my pattern of losing administrative assistants. One of those assistants is dear Christy, who has forgiven me for my manipulative ways.
We are good friends now, and though we live an hour apart, we’ll sometimes meet in the middle at a quiet restaurant. In fact, just this weekend I stayed with Christy while I did a retreat in her area, and she ran my powerpoint presentation.
I’ve told Christy’s story before, and of how God gave her insight into her deep idol. But she has been telling me more, realizing how early in her Christian life the idolatry began.
I want to help you see the stones in your heart. I know that doesn’t sound like fun. It sounds like going to the dentist. But I promise you, getting the rottenness out will bring health to your soul and dramatically change your life. The stone you thought was your friend is not your friend. He only pretends to be. I’m excited to show you three very short film clips from an expert on overcoming idolatry, David Powlison. Christy’s story will help set them up. For more of Christy’s story, you can find it on this blog post: http://deebrestin.wpengine.com/2011/03/set-free-from-relational-idolatry/
Christy’s idol brought incredible pain into her life, but it took time for her to see him because he crouches, and tells you that he will give you what you want. But he won’t. He’ll turn on you. He is a beast.
Christy’s idol has been slain and Christy has been set free. Here is part of her story:
As women, we are the relational gender, and our friendships tend to be very important to us. We long for good friends, put time and thought into our friendships, and are devastated when a kindred spirit friendship falls apart. I believe God gave us that relational longing, and it is a good thing, as long as it does not become a god.
Christy suffered under the weight of her “stones” for fifteen years. She now can see how they brought her pain from the very beginning of her walk with Christ. Christy wasn’t involved with drugs or illicit sex at college – she would have known that was wrong. She was immersed in friendship with sisters in Christ. What could be wrong with that?
In the beginning, our idols seem to bring us the comfort, approval, and security for which we all long. Christy remembers the joy she had in the beginning, before her idols turned on her and began to cut her to pieces.
How I remember the excitement of becoming a Christian, and the enormous joy of Christian fellowship. There were three Christian women on my dorm floor to whom I was close, and one of them was my roommate, Sarah. These friendships were so much deeper than any friendships I’d known before. We talked about the things that mattered, we prayed for one another, and they helped me understand that Jesus needed to be my Lord, and not just my Savior. I was closest to Sarah. I admired her so much – she was wise, much more mature in her faith, and warmly encouraging. At night, before we’d fall asleep, I’d pepper her with questions about God or life. She listened and she drew me out. I felt loved and cared for. Sarah’s affirmation meant so much to me. When she’d compliment me on my Christian growth, her favor was like the morning sun, and I’d bask in its warmth.
Deep within her heart, Christy had idols of affirmation and of security. She wanted someone to to always be there for her to encourage her and to love her. She thought she had that in her friends. But as “The Solid Rock,” says:
…I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus name
On Christ the Rock I stand,
As dear and as godly as friends are, they cannot promise to always be there for us. They may let us down, because they, like us, are sinners. They may move away. And they may die.
In fact, that May Sarah graduated. She would not be returning to college. Not only that, she was engaged to be married. It would be a double parting. Christy recalls:
I remember vividly how sad I was. I didn’t think I’d ever stop crying. I drove myself home for the summer break and cried all the way. My heart felt totally broken. I felt such a loss and I didn’t think I could ever be happy again without Sarah.
One of the clearest ways to identify our idols is to ask, “What, if you lost it, would make you feel like life was unbearable?” That clearly shows what we are trusting in other than God. In the first clip from David Powlison, he asks us to consider what we fear other than God, what we love other than God, what we seek other than God, and what we trust other than God. You can see all of these things in Christy and her relational idolatry.
When I think about the incident in Mark’s gospel with the blind man and Jesus, and how at first he saw “men as trees walking,” I think that though this story teaches that growth is gradual, it also represents how our idols can keep us from seeing people as Jesus would have us seem them. Instead of seeing them as people with hurts and needs, we can use them, seeing them as a way to meet our own needs. People in the world, because they are completely dominated by their idols, “bite and devour one another,” but we are to put off that way of life and put on Christ. I was devouring my administrative assistants. Christy confesses: “I wasn’t addicted to a substance or running to food for comfort, I was feasting on people.” When the Stonecutter moves in and crushes our idols, our relationships are transformed. We see people, “not as trees walking,” but as Jesus sees them. A new sweetness comes into our relationships with everyone.
What I see in Christy is that she is becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ. There is a growing radiance and joy in her. It is what Jesus wants for all of us.
This week I want you to watch three short film clips by counselor David Powlison. I have used the term “near sin” and “deep idol.” He uses the term horizontal and vertical — for example, when we are horizontally angry, it is because something is wrong with our vertical relationship with God. One of the things that is helpful, he says, to do is to look at the commands Scripture gives us about God and turn them upside down. For example, we are told to love God — but what are we really loving. Here are some of the commands he addresses:
Watch this three minute video:
1. What stood out to you from the above story about Christy and why?
2. What did you learn from David Powlison’s clip on How To Keep Yourself From Idolatry?
A. What do I love?
B. What do I fear?
C. What do I seek?
D. What do I trust?
David Powlinson asked this question: “What am I doing with God when something bad comes out?” Beneath the reaction is an idol.
3. What example from this clip stood out to you?
4. Watch yourself today for bad things coming out — complaining, worrying… Each time, see if you can identify what you are doing with God. When you see it, record it here. (Some of you may stay in the light all day — I’m not telling you to go to the darkness, but if you do, record it here.)
5. Read Psalm 46
a. Describe what is happening to the mountains, the sea, and the nations in the opening six verses.
b. Are you feeling any of that in your life right now? Explain.
c. What does the psalmist tell us to do in verses 8 through 11. How can you apply this to your situation right now?
Listen to this song, written after the author’s fiance drowned.
d. What evidence do you have from the gospel that God’s love will never let you go?
Thursday – Friday
David Powlison asks, “What are we meant to organize our life around?”
6. What stood out to from the above and why?
7. What does Ephesians 5:5 say that covetousness is? And what does covetousness mean?
8. What is your STRONG desire? Be as honest as you can.
9. What is your take-a-way and why?